I remember the first time, years ago, I first heard about buffalo chicken. I was confused. Is it buffalo? Is it chicken? I’m still not entirely sure where the name “buffalo chicken” came from, but I do know one thing: I love it! And now, with this Paleo buffalo chicken casserole, I can have the flavors of “buffalo” that I love with the health benefits of added veggies and only a few carbs.
Of course, the most popular traditional form of buffalo chicken is the mighty chicken wing. But chicken deep fried and doused in butter and blue cheese is not exactly the Paleo way. Then there’s the buffalo chicken wrap, but the wrap itself is full of unwanted carbs and processed flours that Paleo folks stay away from. And not too long ago I was introduced to the buffalo chicken dip.
Putting aside that I have a problem with the idea of “chicken” and “dip” in the same sentence together, this no doubt tasty party food is scooped up with processed tortilla chips and made with processed canned chicken and processed cheese and processed… processed everything! Just about as non-Paleo as you can get!
But in yet another lesson in how Paleo eating is not about “giving up” certain foods or “forbidding” yourself anything, but instead about opening your eyes to new ways of doing things. This buffalo chicken casserole gives you all the buffalo flavors you love, in a filling, hearty meal, and is perfectly Paleo.
Most casseroles have some sort of noodle. For our casserole, we use zucchini noodles. If you have one of those spiral vegetable cutters, great! If not, just slice long, very thin strips of zucchini and you’ll have a very similar result. In addition to keeping wheat-based products out of our meal, this substitution means that you get the health benefits of zucchini in your casserole while enjoying the texture of noodles.
Now, onto the cashew nuts. Are you scratching your head a bit? Let me explain. You need to have something in your casserole that makes it a bit creamy and will help everything stick together. That’s what the blended up cashews do! Instead of cheese, the cashews add a rich creaminess and with the eggs help the casserole come together nicely.
The cider vinegar and the cayenne is what gives this casserole the signature “buffalo” flavor. Cayenne adds spice – and you can control the spice level by adding a little less or a little more, depending on your palate. I love spicy food so I had two heaping teaspoonfuls, but it will taste just as good with less. The vinegar gives the dish that tart flavor that balances the heat in any good buffalo chicken dish.
I love making this dish on the weekend and having leftovers for lunch during the week. It keeps nicely in the fridge for a few days. But this is also a great party dish. I love serving it in the fall and winter during football-watching parties so I can give my guests some healthy and tasty buffalo chicken.
No doubt whenever you decide to serve it and whomever you decide to share with will dig this spicy, tangy, buffalo chicken casserole.
- 4 medium zucchini
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 medium red peppers, deseeded and cubed
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup cashew nuts, soaked in water minimum 3 hours
- 1 ½ tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 ½ tbsp cider vinegar
- 1-2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tbsp water
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp dried parsley or 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley plus extra for decoration
- salt, black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Cut the zucchini into thin spaghetti-like noodles.
- Place the noodles in a colander, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and mix through.
- Let stand for 10 minutes, then squeeze out all the moisture from the noodles. Set aside.
- Place in a blender drained cashews and water and blend on high until completely smooth.
- Add the garlic, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, cider vinegar, nutritional yeast (if using), 2 tablespoons of olive oil and eggs.
- Blend until combined.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Cut the chicken into ¼'' cubes.
- In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil.
- Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the red peppers and celery and cook for 5 minute more.
- Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in the zucchini noodles and cashew mixture and mix to combine.
- Transfer the chicken-zucchini mixture in to a lightly greased casserole dish and bake for 50-60 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.